10 Things You Need to Know Before Going to College in Germany
The first time I moved to Germany, I was 17 years old and just finishing up my junior year of high school in the United States. For whatever reason, my family had it in their heads that Germany would be a good place to have me finish my high school education. Since then, I’ve lived in Germany four different times, attending three different German universities and earning bachelor’s degrees from two of them. My experience has taught me many things about going to college in Germany, so I wanted to write this article to share what I learned with other prospective students from the United States looking to study abroad there.
Germany has one of the best education systems in the world, and it offers affordable education to international students from all over the world. One of the most popular places to study in Germany is Munich, Bavaria, as this city provides students with easy access to all the major cities in Germany, such as Berlin and Frankfurt, and its proximity to other European countries, like Austria and Switzerland.
Germany may not be the first choice when it comes to choosing where to study abroad, but this doesn’t mean that studying in Germany is any less of an exciting experience than anywhere else. Whether you’re looking for the best beer culture in Europe or the oldest universities, there are plenty of reasons why Germany should be your top pick!
That being said, there are certain things you need to know before moving here so that you can have a successful and memorable time in Germany and make the most out of your university experience abroad in Germany. Here are ten important things you need to know before going to college in Germany.
About College in Germany
If you're thinking about going to college in Germany, there are a few things you should know first. For starters, all German colleges are public and tuition-free. That means anyone can apply, regardless of their financial situation. In addition, most classes are taught in German, so you'll need to be proficient in the language before enrolling.
10 Things You Need to Know Before Going to College in Germany
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1) Why choose Germany?
Germany is a great choice for American students looking to study abroad. Not only is it home to some of the world's top universities, but it's also an affordable option. And with its central location in Europe, it's easy to travel to other countries during your studies. Here are 4 things you need to know before going to college in Germany:
- At most German universities, tuition fees and living expenses are quite low compared to many other European countries.
- Many German universities offer programs taught exclusively in English so this may be a good option if you're interested in studying law or economics.
- The application process for international students is generally similar to that of German applicants (you'll have to take standardized tests such as the SATs).
- If you're planning on studying humanities or social sciences at university, there will be more emphasis on language skills than if you were studying engineering or mathematics.
2) Obtaining a Visa
Before you can even think about packing your bags and jetting off to Germany, you need to obtain a student visa. The process can seem daunting, but we’re here to help. Here are the 10 things you need to know before applying for a student visa for Germany:
- You must have been accepted into a German university before you can apply for a student visa.
- The application process is entirely online and can be found on the website of the German embassy or consulate in your home country.
- You will need to provide proof of financial means, health insurance, and your university enrollment when applying for a student visa.
- A student visa for Germany allows you to stay in the country for up to 90 days.
3) Health Insurance
All students going to college in Germany are required to have health insurance. There are two types of health insurance: public and private. Public health insurance is offered by the government and is subsidized by the state. Private health insurance is offered by for-profit companies and is not subsidized. Students usually opt for public health insurance because it is cheaper.
To get public health insurance, you must fill out a form and submit it to your local Studentenwerk (student services organization). The form can be found on their website. If you have private health insurance, you will need to show your insurance card when you go to the doctor.
4) Tuition Costs and Financial Aid
One of the main reasons why American students choose to study in Germany is because tuition is free at public universities. And even though living costs can be high, there are several ways to get financial aid and scholarships.
Here are 5 things you need to know about financing your education in Germany:
- There are many scholarships for international students that you may qualify for through the DAAD (German Academic Exchange Service).
- Make sure to file your FAFSA application as soon as possible so that your parents will not have any difficulty getting their taxes done on time.
- Remember that tuition fees in Germany are low compared to what Americans pay for higher education: roughly $1,500 per year which covers all courses taught by professors from all disciplines.
- Students can apply for a BAföG, which is a student loan for international students in Germany. The amount of your BAföG may be limited by DAAD but it will still be a significant help towards financing your college education.
- Also, you will probably be eligible for a Bafoeg which is offered by KFW. The Bafoeg offers two plans: a short-term plan (Bis) and a long-term plan (Lang).
5) Housing Options
If you're planning on going to college in Germany, there are a few things you need to know about finding housing. On-campus housing is an option at most German universities, but it's often limited and can be expensive. Another option is finding an apartment or room in a private home off-campus. This can be a great way to save money and get immersed in the local culture.
However, it can be difficult to find housing on your own, so you may want to consider using a student housing service. There are also several student dormitories located throughout Germany that offer affordable and safe housing for students. Whatever option you choose, make sure you do your research and plan so you can find the perfect place to call home during your time in Germany.
6) Academic Program Options
The number of English-taught programs at German universities has increased in recent years, making it easier for American students to find courses they're interested in. But before you pack your bags and head off to Germany, there are a few things you should know.
Which degree you choose depends on what you want to study and what you want from your education. One option is a dual study program, where students earn both a German and an American diploma. Another popular choice is the Foundation Year Program, or Fachhochschule (Fh), which is required for most university programs.
An Fh involves four semesters of full-time study after secondary school and qualifies students for advanced degrees at universities throughout Germany. The downside? It's more expensive than a bachelor's degree, with fees upwards of €40,000 ($50,000). On top of that, Fhs are only offered in specific subjects like engineering and nursing.
7) Social Life/ Clubs
- The social life at German colleges is very different from what you’re used to in the States.
- There are far fewer campus-sponsored social events and most students don’t live in dorms.
- This means that you’ll have to be more proactive about making friends and joining clubs.
- But don’t worry, there are still plenty of ways to meet people and have fun!
- Get involved with student organizations – these are a great way to meet people with similar interests as you.
8) Student Organizations
If you're thinking about going to college in Germany, there are a few things you should know before making the big decision. Here are 10 things American students need to know before attending college in Germany:
- Learn the language: Unless you're planning on attending a school that offers classes in English, you'll need to have at least a basic understanding of the German language.
- Find out if your credits will transfer: One of the biggest advantages of attending college in Germany is that many schools offer programs that are accredited by both German and American institutions. However, it's important to check with your home school to see if credits earned abroad will transfer back home.
- Get familiar with the German educational system.
9) University Admission Letter
As an American student, you'll need to take a few extra steps to be admitted into a German university. But don't worry, the process is fairly simple once you know what you need to do.
In addition, while most American students will need to apply directly through a German university, all of your application materials and transcripts should be sent directly from US institutions. German universities do not request copies of your SAT or ACT scores.
However, if you have taken either exam previously, include them with your transcript requests. If you're applying to a university in Germany as an exchange student through an agency like EF or ISEP make sure that they send your application documents along with any other required forms and documents directly to your chosen university—this is likely outlined in the handbook given by your agency.
10) Studying Abroad
There are a few things you should know before packing your bags and heading off to college in Germany. For starters, tuition is free! That’s right, German colleges and universities don’t charge tuition fees, even for international students. And if you’re worried about the language barrier, don’t be – most courses are taught in English.
What You Need
- Get your finances in order before you go: Make sure you have enough money saved up to cover your tuition and living expenses for at least the first semester.
- Learn some German before you go: While most people in Germany speak English, it's always helpful to know a few key phrases in the local language.
- Pack light: You'll probably want to bring some favorite items from home, but remember that you'll be sharing a small space with roommates. Stick to the essentials.
- Be prepared for culture shock: From the food to the social customs, there will be a lot of new things to get used to when you first arrive in Germany.
- Study hard: Don't just study so you can pass your classes—your studies are an investment that will prepare you for a career and allow you to qualify for better jobs after graduation. Your studies will also help keep you focused and engaged on campus, making it easier to meet new people and make friends.
Whether you’re considering studying abroad or are already enrolled in a program, there are a few things you should know before going to college in Germany. From the cost of living to healthcare and everything in between. Good Luck!